Post Autonomy now 3, lecture for the Mongolian Biennial

Post Autonomy is now 3


2nd version


Rethinking Biennials in a Global context through the framework of Post Autonomy


Passage from a partial to a full development of PA – PA as another model of art within the context of Mongolia – Breaking with a Euro centric tradition


Lecture/ performance by David Goldenberg

Using the framework of Post Autonomy to rethink Biennials and staging art beyond a Euro Centric tradition of art in a Global context.
This is stage 3 in realising Post Autonomy now –

3 stages in realising Post Autonomy

Stage 1 – 2007 Istanbul Biennial
Stage 2 – 2009, Yourspace Vanabbemuseum, Eindhoven, The Nederlands






The opening up of the space of Post Autonomy offers considerable difficulties and risks. Yet if we reach the conclusion that the existing form and description of art is unusable, if only because the use of the existing form replicates the Euro-centric construction of a model of art’s inherent problems namely its use in Colonising Non European spaces and maintenance of the Nation State, then there appears little choice but to continue the labour of understanding the language and thinking which will make Post Autonomy intelligible, where PA assumes the possibility for a total fundamental rethinking of the model of art.


At the same time two clear problems need to be confronted from the start. That there exists no other model of art than the Euro centric tradition, and that we are thinking through the development of another model from within the existing Euro-centric tradition. Nevertheless PA signals the culmination of the trajectory of the development of a Euro centric tradition, so it is now possible to look back at a body of material that can now be seen to constitute a Euro-centric tradition, but also acknowledge that the tradition determined by Autonomy has failed, and indeed that any further developments using Autonomy as its basis’s is futile, therefore marking the possibility of other unforeseen trajectories. What are we to make of these developments and how do we realistically work through establishing another trajectory in art? At the very least it is possible to recognise that PA offers a greater range of scenarios to read contemporary art than existing descriptions. Yet if we are prepared to commit to the actual potentiality opened up by PA then we are faced with completely different concerns, in other words, how to move into and occupy the space of post autonomy! Again we are faced with a number of considerable problems. How do we recognise and understand the gap we exist in while working towards populating PA? Since what this points up very clearly is “what is the relationship between PA and the Euro centric tradition of art?” or between the existing situation of PA and the existing model of art. What language, terms and taxonomies do we use to describe and open up the space of Post Autonomy? What material do we use to construct the space and practice of PA? Does PA constitute another model, body of thinking or moment? In other words, can we take the easy option and replicate a pre-existing model or framework to embody PA? If we take seriously the challenge posed by PA it is necessary to recognise that we simply cannot do this. We don’t have the option of using concepts and terms determined within the first history of contemporary art shaped by Autonomy. In my opinion PA offers the scenario for recognising and working through the opportunity of starting again in order to move into and open up the space of PA. In other words not only does PA offer a credible opportunity for change, it offers the space in the present for imagining how that change is possible. This takes into account Negri’s realistic analysis of the occupation of cultural power and the acknowledgment of the lack of possible change today. How then do we articulate PA and go onto talk about PA and develop a practice that inhabits the space of PA? The various projects that I have staged need to be seen as a sort of rehearsal for working through these problems.



Post Autonomy as a major competing description of contemporary art.



My interpretation and subsequent developments of what I refer to as the “mental image of Post Autonomy” derives from a basic scheme outlining a new description of contemporary art that has been given the general label of Post Autonomy, derived from Luhmann, and adopted and opened up by Lingner.


The narrative of Post Autonomy suggests a linguistic shift in the understanding and self-description of art away from Modernism to Autonomy i.e. the internal formation of the system of art. The trajectory of contemporary art shaped within the discourse of Autonomy Lingner & Luhmann have suggest has reached a conclusion or “finalisation”, where nothing else can be said or added to our understanding of the “Autonomous formation of the art system”.




To a certain extent both authors have hinted that not only has the existing or former model of art come to an end in terms of its development as an autonomous system, it has at the same time suffered an “internal collapse”, something along the lines that arts initial strategy to unhook itself from existing powers and belief systems has failed, with the necessity to establish a completely new model. In that respect this hints at something far more dramatic & fundamental than previous descriptions of art, because if we take these implications to their obvious conclusion then what we are looking at is something along the lines of a 2nd history of contemporary art. If we agree with this line of thinking, then since the trajectory of art has reached this conclusion, further developments into art are unable to use the former conceptual framework to describe these activities, and the trajectory into another cultural space.  Instead a new thought scheme is required, a logic that prevents more than a mere rescue of this systems, so again we are faced with seeking far more drastic solutions.


The term PA by signalling the exiting of that trajectory and entrance into another mental and cultural space embodies all of these ramifications.


This narrative joins one of a number of narratives that have sought to describe and understand a Meta history of art as defined within recent European history, where there is a clear beginning and end to its trajectory. Similarly along with these narratives PA speculates what takes place after the end of that trajectory.



Post Autonomy signals the exiting from the self-description around autonomy and entry into another discourse.



To address PA we are required to confront many of the prohibitions into thinking into the notion of new models


Much of my thinking revolves around the implication of the moment on “exiting autonomy”.



Preliminary thoughts

What can we make of the brief general statements that determine PA? How do we translate them into a workable scheme for a praxis? How do we understand and interpret this trajectory, shift and transition? And how do we understand the scheme of PA itself?


Given the implications of what I have just said then in terms of moving forward we are faced with what appears to be considerable problems. How do we take this exiting and entrance into another intellectual and cultural space seriously and go onto inhabit that space? Given the very considerable difficulty of comprehending the significance of what is implied by the end of the system of art it appears necessary to treat the trajectory in the form of a mental image and a fiction, which allows the possibility to open up thinking into the space on the basis of this meagre material and lack of space for developing other thoughts into culture. Does that mean that any exploration and articulation of PA is arbitrary and random? To both sets of questions I would say we are at too early a stage to understand the attributes of PA to answer these questions about PA. However at present we can best understand PA in terms of disrupting the thinking and staging of art. Yet at the same time the implication of PA cannot be felt unless it contests existing space and descriptions.


For instance how do we go about any simple articulation of thinking within the space of PA without replicating the intellectual forms and behaviour from the model that we have exited? Further more what is obvious from the outset is that there is no existing template and master plan to allow us to simply enter and occupy this new space in terms of simply duplicating existing concepts and schemes? But the solution is obvious if we think about the problems inherent in the model of contemporary art itself, and the shift to the key role of participatory practices within PA, which means that the mechanisms and processes for thinking and staging art are significantly different. I would go so far to say that we don’t know how thinking occurs at this early stage within this new configuration of participation.


Understanding the role of this “shift” on exiting Autonomy.


Use the implication of a shift as an opportunity to address key issues today which existing descriptions are unable or unwilling to address, through setting up thought experiments, fictions and scenario’s to imagine other potentialities.



In order to take full advantage of the implication offered by PA I want to suggest that it can be used as a scheme to signal a fundamental and literal idea of a shift – away or beyond a Euro centric tradition, taxonomies and language, to address the role of art in a Global context through an exchange between different cultures. In that respect the scheme offers the capacity for not only an internal interrogation from within the existing model but also the capacity for a model that is capable of being taken up and expanded outside that tradition. There are of course very obvious problems inherent in this proposition. For instance in thinking beyond or outside the Euro centric tradition what thinking and concepts are at hand to be able to understand the space we enter? And is it possible to think beyond or outside art through the thinking of art as determined within a Euro centric tradition of art? If we understand PA as a mechanism to disrupt thinking and practicing art then there is a challenge to how thinking and staging art is possible, which is the reason for understanding Post Autonomy as a mental image as opposed to a concept, along with the challenge to put in place the means to articulate PA.



Progressing from a partial to a full development & understanding of PA.



Up until now the research into opening up PA has revolved around its analyses from within the Euro centric tradition, and only inadequately within other cultural frameworks. Therefore any understanding of Post autonomy in terms of something that exists on moving out or beyond a Euro-centric tradition is unknown. The existing developments through understanding the mechanisms of participatory practices within a range of local contexts and audiences can be seen as a partial development towards developing the language and concepts adequate for articulating PA. The further development of PA into a fully realisable scheme needs to be taken to the next stage within contexts that break or exist independently from a Euro centric tradition.


A potential use of PA within a Mongolian context


How does a scheme that proposes breaking with a Euro-centric tradition as a basis for its beginning actually work?


All narratives that have developed contemporary art in terms of Modernism have failed to address the negative aspects of Modernism namely its role in colonising others/cultures while consolidating the Nation State. And since they are unable to resolve its inherent problems, there is therefore a necessity for a fundamentally different strategy and description. I would go so far to say that it is impossible to use the existing descriptions and models to resolve existing problems, of addressing political and social problems in society, for the very reason that the existing models are not only developed from within the Euro centric tradition, they also set out to maintain the existing World order and centres of cultural power. Further more, the shift to the scheme of PA allows for the possibility of moving away from the burden of concerns that exists within the current descriptions of art, and to locate other concerns and issues, or rather I would say that existing concerns are determined within the existing Euro-centric tradition framework, so there is no other choice but to locate another framework.

All the above can be seen to make sense when we understand that participatory practices is key to PA, in so far that participatory practices breaks with the autonomy of the artist, art work and audience as shaped within a Euro centric tradition, the only methodology that starts with the break down of hierarchies and re negotiation of contemporary culture. Through participation there is an encouragement for different cultures to meet and renegotiate another space to share & take up further developments.



The thinking into PA has existed in the form of a “thought experiment” or “mimicking the formation of a new model” i.e. to understand PA is equivalent to working through the formation of a new model. In other words many of the projects have adopted the form of a visualisation methodology that seeks to mentally project an actor, whether myself or others, into a mental space we can call PA. At the back of this thinking is Negri’s analysis of the process of gaining cultural power and the formation of cultural power itself.


Throughout the research into PA there has been a parallel examination into “The logic of  participatory practice’s”, alongside a series of intermittent projects concerned with the move towards inhabiting the space of PA that look at the mental and practical implication of establishing something equivalent to PA, where there is no clear idea for materialising a PA practice – the process of moving up to and crossing over the boundary line of a new model, staging projects imagining a space outside or beyond a Euro-centric tradition of art and visualising the space of PA.



What I think has actually taken place is a set of rehearsals, a preliminary number of projects and thinking without an actual PA actual taking place.






The space of PA offers another discourse and content that is unknown at present.



Towards a Topology of post autonomy



On entering and opening up the space of PA



What takes place in the space of PA and how do we understand its content?



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